Ah yes, that little tune, played by the Wisconsin band whenever the Badgers score a touchdown, is always music to my ears - but especially so during the 2014 season, because more often than not it meant that a player with dreads scored the touchdown. Far more often than not that player was junior RB Melvin Gordon; but Gordon was not the only Badger player with dreads to take one to the house. And it was those small but valuable contributions by his teammates that lifted Wisconsin to the team crown for the most TD by players with dreads this season.
Gordon and Boise State junior RB Jay Ajayi finished in a dead heat for the individual crown with 32 TD each. That number not only led all of Division 1 this season but also is a new record for the most TD ever scored in a season by any D-1 player with dreads (surpassing the 30 scored by Ricky Williams for Texas in 1998).
But whereas Ajayi had no supporting cast, three Badgers with dreads besides Gordon had one touchdown each, giving UW a 35-32 edge over Boise State for the crown. A trio of stars with dreads for Coastal Carolina combined for 30 TD even to make it a total of three Division 1 teams with 30 or more TD by players with dreads in 2014.
When Gordon scored on a 14-yard run in the 2nd quarter of the season opener against LSU (photo above), I figured it would be his first of many TD; but not even I dreamed he would take so many more to the house. But with his sidekick, Corey Clement, slowed by an injury late in the season, and with the Badgers having a slightly less than explosive passing game all season, Gordon got more carries than expected - 343 in all (25 per game) - and made the most of them.
With 35 of their 61 TD (57.4%) - the 19th of the 35 punctuated by Gordon's leap into the end zone (photos above) for a 13-yard score against Rutgers in Week 10 - scored by players with dreads, Wisconsin was the only D-1 team to have more than half of their touchdowns by players with dreads - except for one other. Savannah State scored a meager total of 19 TD during their 0-12 season, and 10 of them were by players with dreads. There were 10 other teams besides Wisconsin to have at least 4 different players with dreads score; and one of those had 5 players score, as Clemson's total of 11 TD by players with dreads were accounted for by 5 different players.
In the previous 3 years I have done a house calls post a team from the state of Alabama has taken the crown. But this season the most anybody from Alabama had were the 19 TD by Alabama State. The Hornets are one of 36 teams (two more than in 2013) to make the list of teams with at least 10 TD scored by players with dreads. Agonizingly close but falling one short of the list were 8 teams with 9 TD. Here now are the 36 teams.
- WISCONSIN - RB Melvin Gordon 32, WR Kenzel Doe 1, RB Dare Ogunbowale 1, WR Robert Wheelwright 1
- BOISE STATE - RB Jay Ajayi 32
- COASTAL CAROLINA - RB De'Angelo Henderson 21, WR John Israel 6, WR Devin Brown 3
- UNC-CHARLOTTE - RB Kalif Phillips 20, RB Maetron Thomas 4
- STEPHEN F. AUSTIN - RB Gus Johnson 23
- ARKANSAS - RB Alex Collins 12, WR Keon Hatcher 7, DT Darius Philon 1
One week after his high step into the end zone against Rutgers, Melvin Gordon goes even higher (on left) as he hurdles Purdue CB Leroy Clark to finish off a 27-yard TD reception. Gordon had 3 TD catches on the season, and the last of those was a big 4-yarder (on right) that cut Minnesota's lead to 17-10 in the 2nd quarter during Week 14.
Melvin Gordon, who backed out of a verbal commitment to Iowa before signing with Wisconsin, did not have a good game during the Badgers' trip to Iowa City in 2013, and Hawkeyes fans let him know about it. But thanks to an oddity in the schedule the Badgers were at Iowa again in 2014, and Gordon silenced the crowd with one of his best games of the season, finishing with 200 yards rushing on 31 carries, a career high 64 yards receiving on 4 catches, and 2 TD - a 6-yard run (on right) late in the 2nd quarter and a 23-yard run (on left) for a 26-17 lead midway through the 4th. UW held on for a key 26-24 win in Week 13, eliminating Iowa from the Big 10 West race. Here are the 2 TD along with the rest of the UW highlights in the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgcLnxSU8fo
While Melvin Gordon may have done the heavy lifting, the Badgers wouldn't have taken the team crown without help from his supporting cast. Senior WR Kenzel Doe scores his only TD of the season on 19-yard reception (on left) during 4th quarter of a 20-14 loss to Northwestern in Week 6. Thanks to a lack of depth, sophomore Dare Ogunbowale was moved to RB early in the season, and the UW coaching staff discovered he's a better RB than DB. Ogunbowale breaks a tackle by LB Courtney Love (on right) en route to his 1st career TD, an 8-yard run to put the icing on the cake during 4th quarter of a 59-24 romp over Nebraska in Week 12.
Of all the Badgers' touchdowns this season, the one that made me the happiest was probably this one by sophomore WR Robert Wheelwright in Week 14 (both photos). The 17-yard catch for his 1st career TD - on his 1st (and only) catch of the season - was a big one, extending the Badgers' lead to 34-24 with 4:41 remaining in their Big 10 West clinching win over Minnesota. Wheelwright has a not so grand total of 3 receptions in his first two seasons, but he'll have every opportunity to be in the starting lineup in 2015. It's up to him.
- ALABAMA STATE - RB Malcolm Cyrus 13, RB Khalid Thomas 5, S Najee Bright 1
- CINCINNATI - RB Mike Boone 9, WR Chris Moore 8, RB Tion Green 1, DE Terrell Hartsfield 1
- COLORADO STATE - RB Dee Hart 18
- GEORGIA - RB Todd Gurley 10, WR Chris Conley 8
- MURRAY STATE - WR Janawski Davis 15, WR DeQavius Walker 3
- TEXAS A&M - WR Malcome Kennedy 6, WR Speedy Noil 5, RB James White 3, RB Brandon Williams 3
- BETHUNE-COOKMAN - RB Anthony Jordan 12, QB Larry Brihm 4
- NOTRE DAME - WR Will Fuller 15, WR Chris Brown 1
- SAM HOUSTON STATE - RB Donovan Williams 9, RB Jalen Overstreet 7
- WOFFORD - RB Lorenzo Long 15
Freshman Mike Boone scores Cincinnati's final TD of the game (left photo) - and the 1st of his career - on a 1-yard run on the first play of the 4th quarter in a 41-3 road win over SMU in Week 8. Boone scored all 9 of his TD in the Bearcats' final 8 games of the season. Junior Chris Moore makes another long-distance house call, scoring on a 66-yard reception (right photo) against East Carolina during Week 12. Moore's 8 TD came on receptions of 8, 12, 60, 83, 78. 66, 31, and 43 yards - an average of 47 yards per TD.
- HOUSTON - RB Ryan Jackson 7, WR Deontay Greenberry 6, S Trevon Stewart 1
- IOWA STATE - TE E.J. Bibbs 8, WR D'Vario Montgomery 2, RB DeVondrick Nealy 2, WR Jarvis West 2
- LAMAR - WR Mark Roberts 13, S Ronald Barrett 1
- ALABAMA - RB Derrick Henry 13
- BOWLING GREEN - RB Travis Greene 13
- FAU - WR Lucky Whitehead 8, RB Greg Howell 2, WR Kalib Woods 2, CB Cre'von LeBlanc 1
- MEMPHIS - RB Jarvis Cooper 4, RB Doroland Dorceus 4, WR Keiwone Malone 4, CB Dontrell Nelson 1
- WESTERN CAROLINA - WR Spearman Robinson 11, CB Jaleel Lorquet 1, WR Terryon Robinson 1
- TENNESSEE TECH - RB Ladarius Vanlier 8, RB Willie Davis 3, DE Jordan Patrick 1
- TOWSON - RB Darius Victor 12
- VIRGINIA TECH - TE Bucky Hodges 8, RB Marshawn Williams 4
FAU is on the list for the 3rd straight year, but with only 13 TD this season (after 16 and 18 the last two) after William Dukes and Alex DeLeon cut off their dreads after last season. 4 of the 13 came in the Owls' 45-38 victory over Western Kentucky in Week 8, including these two - freshman Kalib Woods' 11-yard reception (on left) for his 1st career TD, cutting WKU's lead to 14-7; and senior Lucky Whitehead's 20-yard score on a WR screen (on right), bringing the Owls to within 31-21 in the 3rd quarter. Later, with 1:23 remaining in the game, Whitehead scored the game winner on a 61-yard catch and (mostly) run.
- CLEMSON - WR Mike Williams 6, RB Tyshon Dye 2, DE Tavaris Barnes 1, DE Vic Beasley 1, TE Jay Jay McCullough 1
- MISSISSIPPI STATE - WR De'Runnya Wilson 9, RB Ashton Shumpert 2
- TEXAS TECH - WR Bradley Marquez 10, WR D.J. Polite-Bray 1
- UCLA - RB Paul Perkins 11
- EAST CAROLINA - RB Breon Allen 9, WR Brandon Bishop 1
- FLORIDA STATE - RB Dalvin Cook 8, WR Ermon Lane 1, LB Terrance Smith 1
- SAVANNAH STATE - WR Cantrell Frazier 4, RB Richard Williams 4, RB Nicholas Bentley 2
- UTAH - WR Kaelin Clay 8, QB Brandon Cox 1, WR Andre Lewis 1
- WEST VIRGINIA - WR Kevin White 10
With both Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins now in the NFL, Clemson really struggled to make the list this season. But make it they did, even if it took 5 players to do it. Star senior DE Vic Beasley recorded a rare '4-S' play against North Carolina State in Week 6 - the best a D-lineman can do on one play - getting the sack, strip, scoop, and score all by himself, the score coming on a 16-yard return (right photo) for the final points of the Tigers' 41-0 victory. After back surgery forced him to redshirt in 2013 and a torn Achilles caused him to miss the first 2 months of this season, Tyshon Dye finally got on the field, appearing in 4 games and rushing for 151 yards on 32 carries. His 1st career TD came on a 3-yard run (left photo) in Week 13 during the 1st quarter of a 28-0 win over Georgia State. Dye was a 4-star recruit coming out of HS; so if he's truly back to 100%, well, Clemson might be back up in the 20+ range in TD by players with dreads again by next season.
A couple of sophomores accounted for all of Mississippi State's 11 TD by players with dreads. De'Runnya Wilson scores the Bulldogs' 1st TD of the season on their first drive of the season, breaking a tackle by Southern Miss S Jacorius Cotton (#28) at the 2-yard line and spinning into the end zone for a 25-yard score (left photo) in Week 1. Dread all-American Ashton Shumpert scores the last of his 2 TD this season (right photo), going in standing up for a 3-yard score vs. Vanderbilt in Week 13. With Wilson and Shumpert (and star QB Dak Prescott) back, the Bulldogs could be a darkhouse contender for the crown next season - it all depends on if Shumpert can get into the starting lineup.
For the 2nd straight season the only game in which Kevin White made 2 TD catches was the one against Baylor. But the two he had in last season's 73-42 loss at Baylor didn't quite have the same impact as the two in Week 8 this season. On the left White makes a 36-yard TD catch against the coverage of CB Xavien Howard to tie the game at 7 in the 1st quarter. And on the right White beats Howard again and make a spectacular one-handed catch for a 12-yard TD, breaking a 27-27 tie with 11:36 remaining in the game. West Virginia went on to win 41-27, dealing Baylor their only loss of the regular season. White had 8 catches for 132 yards in the game, making it 7 straight games at the start of the season with 100+ yards. Hopefully Kevin will be doing some more of that in a Chicago Bears uniform in the seasons ahead.
All aboard the Jay Train, that is ...... Jay Ajayi got to have his cake and eat it too during the 2014 season. Not only did the Boise State junior RB tie for the Division 1 lead in touchdowns, he was allowed to do his favorite celebration after every one of them - without getting penalized for it. How can this be, you ask? I was wondering that myself because, as we all know, per the NCAA Football rulebook, doing anything to draw attention to yourself after scoring a TD is strictly prohibited. Well, maybe not so much strictly anymore. It seems officials (thankfully) have gotten a little more lenient in the last couple of seasons. It's OK to celebrate a little; just don't get carried away with it. Apparently Ajayi's trademark arm pump after his touchdowns (photo on right, after scoring Boise State's 1st TD of the game against Fresno State in Week 8) was deemed understated enough that is was not necessary for any penalty flags to be thrown.
And what about that arm pump? All throughout 2013 I had no clue what is was for. But finally early this season, in this article/video from the Idaho Statesman, Jay explained that when he pumps his arm, he's actually mimicking sounding a train whistle. The train being him - the Jay Train: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/09/24/3391817_all-aboard-the-jay-train-boise.html?rh=1
Yes, it's silly. Of course it's silly. All celebrations are silly. But hey, it's entertainment. And as long as your celebration doesn't taunt or demean your opponents, I'm all for it. Football just wouldn't be any fun if you can't celebrate success.
Anyway, among the Jay Train's 32 house calls were a 21-yard catch and run (left photo) for his 3rd TD of the 1st half vs. Colorado State in Week 2 and a 9-yard run against Utah State (right photo) during the 1st quarter in Week 14 - the first of 5 TD he scored in the Broncos' big 50-19 win.
Ajayi, who was kept out of the end zone only by Connecticut and Air Force, and Melvin Gordon, who scored in all of Wisconsin's games except that disaster against Ohio State, are at the top of the list of the 21 players with dreads (4 fewer than last season's 25) who scored 10 or more TD in 2014. Here are all 21.
Boise State RB Jay Ajayi 32
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon 32
Stephen F. Austin RB Gus Johnson 23
Coastal Carolina RB De'Angelo Henderson 21
UNC-Charlotte RB Kalif Phillips 20
Colorado State RB Dee Hart 18
Murray State WR Janawski Davis 15
Notre Dame WR Will Fuller 15
Wofford RB Lorenzo Long 15
Alabama State RB Malcolm Cyrus 13
Bowling Green RB Travis Greene 13
Alabama RB Derrick Henry 13
Lamar WR Mark Roberts 13
Sophomore Derrick Henry dives into the end zone to finish off a 19-yard run for his 1st TD of the season (left photo), upping Alabama's lead to 27-17 over West Virginia during 3rd quarter of the season opener in Week 1 at Atlanta. 5 players with dreads took at least one to the house for Alabama in 2013; but only Henry this season, who scored 9 more than the 4 he had last season. Junior Travis Greene rushed for 645 fewer yards in 2014 than in his record-setting sophomore season, but his number of TD scored was the same - 13, the 4th of which was a 5-yard run (right photo) in Bowling Green's 45-42 win over Indiana in Week 3.
Arkansas RB Alex Collins 12
Bethune-Cookman RB Anthony Jordan 12
Towson RB Darius Victor 12
UCLA RB Paul Perkins 11
Western Carolina WR Spearman Robinson 11
Georgia RB Todd Gurley 10
Texas Tech WR Bradley Marquez 10
West Virginia WR Kevin White 10
SPECIAL MENTION - VIRGINIA UNION
A little earlier I mentioned that 57% of Wisconsin's TD were scored by players with dreads. And that the most house calls by players with dreads in one game were the 6 (all by Dee Hart) in the New Mexico-Colorado State game in Week 13. And also that the team with the most different players with dreads to score a TD this season was Clemson (with 5). Well, that was for Division 1. Actually though, down in Division 2 there's a team that topped all of those numbers. So, because of that, the Virginia Union Panthers, led by a trio of guys from South Florida who were formerly Division 1 players, deserve special mention.
VUU scored 37 touchdowns in 2014, and 23 of them (62.2%) were by players with dreads - 7 different players with dreads, in fact. Leading the way were the 8 TD catches by junior WR Jusse Yorke, who technically never was a Division 1 player but who certainly has D-1 talent. Former Toledo RB Cassious McDowell and former FAMU WR Lenworth Lennon scored 5 TD each. RB Jerome Robinson had 2 rushing TD; FB Rashaun Smith ran for a TD on his only carry of the season; DB Donovan Stephenson scored his only TD on a recovery of a blocked punt in the end zone; and CB Stephan Robinson scooped up a blocked FG attempt and ran it back 75 yards to the house for his only TD. The most important and probably most spectacular of the 23 was Yorke's 2nd TD reception of the game at Johnson C. Smith in Week 5.
With :01 on the clock and the Panthers down 26-21 and 37 yards away from the end zone Yorke ran a go route up the left sideline and made a one-handed catch for the TD. The photo was taken a split second too early (btw, Lennon is #3), but you can see the catch in this video: http://www.nbc12.com/story/26645559/last-second-hail-mary-lifts-virginia-union-at-jcsu
Wow! Before going any further, I have to say I hope the defensive coordinator for J.C. Smith got fired immediately after the game. I mean, on a play where all they had to do was not give up a TD, he rushes 6 men, leaving the other 5 to cover VUU's 5 receivers one-on-one? What was he thinking? And what was that corner thinking? His only job on the play is to not get beat deep, and yet Yorke still runs right past him. Wow.
As for the game with the most TD by players with dreads ..... two weeks after the victory over Johnson C. Smith the Panthers hosted Lincoln on homecoming and won 78-13. 7 of their school record 11 TD were by players with dreads, including 2 by Yorke and 4 by McDowell, who rushed for 174 yards on 9 carries. You can see McDowell's 67-yard TD as well as Smith's TD in this brief video report of the game: http://www.myfoxal.com/story/26764260/virginia-union-posts-record-setting-performance-against-lincoln
Yes, it's great to see that Cassious, who you might remember was a HS teammate of Denard Robinson at Deerfield Beach, FL, still has those very long dreads that earned him a spot on my dread all-America team a couple of times while he was at Toledo. You probably also noticed (in both videos) that VUU's quarterback has sick dreads too. That would be junior Kenneth Graham (photo above, from Week 5), who threw 10 TD passes this season but didn't score any TD. After leading the 4th quarter comeback at Johnson C. Smith, Graham moved into the starting lineup, and the Panthers scored 31, 78, and 40 points in their next 3 games (their three highest scores of the season) to improve their record to 6-1. But then he was injured in the 1st quarter of the Week 9 game against Bowie State, and VUU was held to a total of 6 TD in their final 3 games of the season, two of which were defeats. If there continues to be a scarcity of good QBs with dreads in Division 1, I might keep Graham in mind when it comes times to choosing my all-America with dreads team next season.
TEN MORE HOUSE CALLS
After intercepting a deflected pass in the backfield at the 6-yard line, star senior DE Bud Dupree has an easy jog to the house to give Kentucky the lead for good with 2:29 remaining in the game vs. South Carolina in Week 6. The Gamecocks led 38-24 early in the 4th, but UK scored 3 TD in a span of 5:37, capped by Dupree's 1st career TD, which was Kentucky's first pick 6 in 5 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Abpq8oXYmdU
And now ... a couple of players with the sickest dreads that made house calls .....
Virginia sophomore WR Kyle Dockins dives across the goal for his 1st career TD - an 11-yard reception with 1:48 remaining in the game at BYU in Week 4. Kyle got up and tried to tell the BYU fans to shut up, but an official came over and told him to cut it out before I throw a flag. The TD brought Virginia to within 41-33, but the Cavaliers never got the ball back, and BYU held on. Dockins hasn't done much so far other than have great dreads (8 catches in 2013, 5 catches in 2014); but we can always hope he gets better, right?
After a season like that, it was no surprise that he declared for the NFL draft. Good luck on Sundays, Shaq; but if you're going to play for the Panthers, you are now the enemy as far as I'm concerned.
I'm still hoping to do some stuff on college basketball this summer; but next up, with NFL training camps beginning soon, we're going to take a look at the 2015 class of rookies with dreads, which I better get posted before they start getting cut.